Notes From The Hyena's Belly by Nega Mezlekia

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In this powerful memoir, Nega Mezlekia recalls in vivid detail his boyhood in the arid city of Jijiga, Ethiopia, and his coming of age in the 1970s and 1980s, his country's most turbulent period. In a narrative that sparkles with wit, Mezlekia traces his own personal journey from boy to man. We meet Wondwossen, his best friend and collaborator in mischief; Mr. Alula, their embattled teacher; Mr.Tadesse, full-time school director and part-time poacher; Mustafa, the unconventional Muslim boarder; Mrs. Yetaferu, the Orthodox Christian boarder who manages to find a saint to worship each day of the year and thus successfully avoids gainful employment; and Yeneta, the local priest who is privy to the languages of heaven and hell.

Mezlekia describes the difficulties that consumed Ethiopia after the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the rise to power of the communist Junta whose merciless Red Terror slaughtered 100,000 Ethiopian youths. Though Mezlekia was forced, at the tender age of eighteen, to join a guerrilla army, and had several brushes with death at the hands of reactionary exorcists, he somehow escaped the bloodbath.

Notes from the Hyena's Belly teems with the smells, sights, and sounds of life in the Horn of Africa - of its violent, ingenious humans and its underworld of screeching monkeys, lions and hyenas. Part autobiography, part social history, and wholly captivating, this is an unforgettable portrait of a world where the boundaries of credulity are challenged daily. Out of this rich, sundrenched land where modern corruption rides ancient custom like a hungry bird of prey, Mezlekia crafts a world elegant in its aridity, extreme in its absurdity, and vast in its ironies.

Penguin Canada, 2000.
ISBN: 9780140285826. 355 pp.
Softcover. Near fine.